Poem Of The Day: "A Supermarket in California," by Allen Ginsberg

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon.

In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!

What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands!

Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!--and you, García Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?

I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.

I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?

I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you, and followed in my imagination by the store detective.

We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the cashier.

Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in a hour. Which way does your beard point tonight?

(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and feel absurd.)

Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we'll both be lonely.

Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?

Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe?

- from "Howl and Other Poems" (1956), by Allen Ginsberg (audio)


  1. I recently brought this poem to read during a beat generation-themed party :) Of course, we never got around to the poetry readings, but it's a great example of poetry from that generation :)

  2. i think ginsberg used to have a pic of whitman up on his fridge.

  3. A couple nights ago I watched "No Direction Home" for the fourth or fifth time. I love getting Ginsberg's take on Dylan's early years, his awareness that the torch had been passed from the beat poets to the folk writers of the 60s. The following night I watched an episode of the New York documentary... covering the 1825-65. It features Whitman and some of his poetry of New York. Great convergence then to read this poem.